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Saturday, July 4, 2015

"This Land is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie

performed by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
(acoustic, at the top, and with full band, above) 

"This Land is Your Land" Project from PBS American Masters

performed by Woody Guthrie

This Land is Your Land
words and music by Woody Guthrie
©1956 (renewed 1984), 1958 (renewed 1986) and 1970 TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc. (BMI)
Guthrie recorded several versions of his song. Here is an early version:

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

performed by Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen and more
at President Barack Obama's January 19, 2009 inauguration,
on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Misty Copeland Makes History

Promoted to Principal Dancer at American Ballet Theater
The New York Times, June 30, 2015

Misty Copeland, whose openness about race in ballet helped to make her one of the most famous ballerinas in the United States, was promoted on Tuesday by American Ballet Theater, becoming the first African-American female principal dancer in the company’s 75-year history.
Her promotion — after more than 14 years with the company, nearly eight as a soloist — came as Ms. Copeland’s fame spread far beyond traditional dance circles.
She made the cover of Time magazine this year, was profiled by “60 Minutes” and presented a Tony Award on this year’s telecast. She has written a memoir and a children’s book, and has more than a half-million followers on Instagram. An online ad she made for Under Armour has been viewed more than 8 million times, and she is the subject of a documentary screened this year at the Tribeca Film Festival.
To read the rest of this article click on this.

Misty Copeland report from 60 Minutes
Misty Copeland Makes the Cover of
 Time Magazine

The New York Times, April 16, 2015

For the first time in a generation a dancer has made the cover of Time magazine: Misty Copeland, the American Ballet Theater soloist, was chosen as one of the magazine’s “100 most influential people,” and is featured on one of the five different covers for its upcoming issue.
That puts her in rare company. Time officials said that the last time a dance figure made the magazine’s cover was in 1994, when the choreographer Bill T. Jones was featured. Previous dancers who got their own Time covers include Gelsey Kirkland (1978), Mikhail Baryshnikov (1975), Rudolf Nureyev (1965) and Margot Fonteyn (1949).
To read the rest of the Time article click on this.

Friday, June 19, 2015


Bob Marley & The Wailers perform "War" in Boston, 1978
("War" flows directly into "Exodus.'
To hear "Exodus" click on this.)

Until the philosophy
which hold one race superior
And another
Is finally
And permanently
And abandoned
Everywhere is war
Me say war.

That until there no longer
First class and second class citizens of any nation
Until the colour of a man's skin
Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes
Me say war.

That until the basic human rights
Are equally guaranteed to all,
Without regard to race
Dis a war.

That until that day
The dream of lasting peace,
World citizenship
Rule of international morality
Will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued,
But never attained
Now everywhere is war - war.

And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes
That hold our brothers in Angola,
In Mozambique,
South Africa
Sub-human bondage
Have been toppled,
Utterly destroyed
Well, everywhere is war
Me say war.

War in the east,
War in the west,
War up north,
War down south
War - war
Rumours of war.
And until that day,
The African continent
Will not know peace,
We Africans will fight - we find it necessary
And we know we shall win
As we are confident
In the victory

Of good over evil
Good over evil, yeah!
Good over evil
Good over evil, yeah!
Good over evil
Good over evil, yeah!
For information about Bob Marley see bio. and his official website. For information regarding songwriting credit for "War" read Wikipedia and watch this video clip.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

New U.S. Poet Laureate: Juan Felipe Herrera

June 10, 2015
Juan Felipe Herrera Named U.S. Poet Laureate

from the Academy of American Poets at

Academy of American Poets Chancellor Juan Felipe Herrera is the new U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Herrera is the first Mexican American poet to hold the position.

“Juan Felipe is someone who believes that poetry can make a difference in people’s lives and communities,” said executive director Jennifer Benka in a Washington Post article announcing the news. “He will bring an enthusiasm and electricity to the role of poet laureate that is sure to spark new and wider interest in the art form among people of all ages.”

Herrera was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2011. Chancellorship is an honorary distinction. Chancellors provide artistic guidance, champion our programs and poetry, and judge our largest prizes for poets, including our $100,000 Wallace Stevens Award.

Juan Felipe Herrera was born in Fowler, California, on December 27, 1948. The son of migrant farmers, Herrera moved often, living in trailers or tents along the roads of the San Joaquin Valley in Southern California. As a child, he attended school in a variety of small towns from San Francisco to San Diego. He began drawing cartoons while in middle school, and by high school was playing folk music by Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie.

Herrera graduated from San Diego High in 1967, and was one of the first wave of Chicanos to receive an Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) scholarship to attend UCLA. There, he became immersed in the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, and began performing in experimental theater, influenced by Allen Ginsberg and Luis Valdez.

In 1972, Herrera received a BA in Social Anthropology from UCLA. He received a masters in Social Anthropology from Stanford in 1980, and went on to earn an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1990.

His interests in indigenous cultures inspired him to lead a formal Chicano trek to Mexican Indian villages, from the rain forest of Chiapas to the mountains of Nayarit. The experience greatly changed him as an artist. His work, which includes video, photography, theater, poetry, prose, and performance, has made Herrera a leading voice on the Mexican American and indigenous experience.

Juan Felipe Herrera is the author of numerous poetry collections and other works that include video, photography, theater, prose, and performance, making him a leading voice on the Mexican American and indigenous experience. Read more about his life and work, watch exclusive video of the poet performing his work, and more.

Additional information about Herrera can be found at a Library of Congress web guide. An excellent profile of Herrera appears at The New York Times. Further New York Times coverage appears here. More at the Los Angeles Times and NPR.

A video on California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. This is part of the documentary film "Go Chanting, Libre," which profiles four Chicano poets who participated in the Poetry in the Schools program. Produced in 1984 by Ed Kissam and Rick Tejada-Flores for KRCB TV. For more information and to order a DVD, contact


by Juan Felipe Herrera

Odd to be a half-Mexican, let me put it this way
I am Mexican + Mexican, then there’s the question of the half
To say Mexican without the half, well it means another thing
One could say only Mexican
Then think of pyramids – obsidian flaw, flame etchings, goddesses with
Flayed visages claw feet & skulls as belts – these are not Mexican
They are existences, that is to say
Slavery, sinew, hearts shredded sacrifices for the continuum
Quarks & galaxies, the cosmic milk that flows into trees
Then darkness
What is the other – yes
It is Mexican too, yet it is formless, it is speckled with particles
European pieces? To say colony or power is incorrect
Better to think of Kant in his tiny room
Shuffling in his black socks seeking out the notion of time
Or Einstein re-working the erroneous equation
Concerning the way light bends – all this has to do with
The half, the half-thing when you are a half-being



How they stalk you & how you beseech them
All this becomes your life-long project, that is
You are Mexican. One half Mexican the other half
Mexican, then the half against itself.

Herrera with UC Riverside students for a poetry reading.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Press Release
PEN Center USA announces: 
The 2016 Emerging Voices Fellowship Application Is Now Open 

Los Angeles, CA: PEN Center USA, a literary nonprofit based in Beverly Hills, is pleased to announce the 2016 Emerging Voices Fellowship application period is now open. 

Application Deadline for the 2016 Emerging Voices Fellowship is August 10, 2015.

Founded in 1995, the Emerging Voices Fellowship aims to provide new writers, who lack access, with the specific tools they need to launch a professional writing career. Over the course of eight months, each Emerging Voices Fellow participates in a professional mentorship; hosted Author Evenings with prominent local authors; editors and agents; a series of master classes focused on genre; a voice class; courses donated by UCLA Writers’ Extension Program; three public readings; and a $1,000 stipend. Past mentors have included authors Ron Carlson, Harryette Mullen, Chris Abani, Ramona Ausubel, Meghan Daum, and Sherman Alexie.

Participants need not be published, but the fellowship is directed toward poets and writers of fiction and creative nonfiction with clear ideas of what they hope to accomplish through their writing. For eligibility requirements and to download the application, go here:

Recent Emerging Voices accomplishments of note include 2005 Emerging Voices Fellow Cynthia Bond whose novel Ruby (Hogarth Press) was acquired for film rights by Oprah Winfrey and selected as Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 Pick. 2008 Emerging Voices Alum Shanna Mahin's novel, Oh! You Pretty Things (Dutton - Penguin Books USA) was published last month and received a glowing review from the New York Times. 

To date, 125 individuals have completed the Emerging Voices Fellowship. Alumni have published over thirty books and have received hundreds of anthology inclusions, awards, honors, and fellowships. For more alumni news, go here:

PEN Center USA, a branch of PEN International, has a membership of more than 700 professional writers and strives to protect the rights of writers around the world, to stimulate interest in the written word, and to foster a vital literary community among the diverse writers living in the western states.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Bill Gates, College Dropout: Don't Be Like Me

Bill Gates is something of a model for education skeptics. Mr. Gates — like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah Winfrey — dropped out of college. If they didn’t need a college degree, the skeptics suggest, maybe you don’t need one, either.
Mr. Gates has just published a blog post with something of a reply: Yes, you do need one.
“Although I dropped out of college and got lucky pursuing a career in software, getting a degree is a much surer path to success,” he writes.
“College graduates are more likely to find a rewarding job, earn higher income, and even, evidence shows, live healthier lives than if they didn’t have degrees. They also bring training and skills into America’s work force, helping our economy grow and stay competitive.”
He adds, “It’s just too bad that we’re not producing more of them.”
The post is tied to an interview Mr. Gates has done with Cheryl Hyman, the chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, the city’s network of community colleges. During her five-year tenure, the system has started to raise its abysmally low graduation rate. One of her main pushes has been simplifying the course-selection process, so students know what courses they need to take and can enroll in them. The complexity of that process at many colleges is a bigger problem than many people realize.

In a blog post Wednesday, Bill Gates wrote,  “Although I dropped out of college and got lucky pursuing a career in software, getting a degree is a much surer path to success."CreditSeth Wenig/Associated Press

“The problem isn’t that not enough people are going to college,” Mr. Gates writes. “The problem is that not enough people are finishing.” About one-fifth of the working-age population, he notes, have attended some college without earning a degree.

The attention that Mr. Gates and his foundation are putting on college completion is part of a broader push on the subject. The Obama administration has also started emphasizing college completion, as have some governors and mayors, both Republican and Democratic.

It’s still not clear exactly what works best in reducing dropout rates, but it is clear that doing so matters. As I wrote recently, two large recent studies suggest that college graduation itself matters. (And other studies have come to similar conclusions.) Not only do students learn from the courses they take, but they also learn the valuable skill of seeing something through to the end — of figuring out how to finish what they started and of gaining the confidence that comes with that success.

The broader economic weakness over the past 15 years — which has affected college graduates, too — has created a fair amount of cynicism about college. People worry, somewhat understandably, that the economy is a zero-sum game in which producing more college graduates will simply force those graduates to fight over a fixed number of good jobs. But the evidence points strongly in the other direction.

Education, as David Autor, the M.I.T. economist, notes, is not a game of musical chairs. More educated societies generally become richer, healthier and better functioning over time. Take the United States, which led the way in making high school universal in the early 20th century. Or South Korea, which has rapidly expanded its number of college graduates in recent decades.

“It’s hard to find examples of countries that have not ultimately benefited from sustained investments in modern education,” Mr. Autor said. “The evidence favors the idea that human capital investments pay off over the medium and long term."

 I’ve pointed out before that even education skeptics aren’t skeptical about the value of education — and college — for their own children. One of the world’s most famous college dropouts isn’t skeptical about it, either.

Monday, June 1, 2015

POETRY.ORG from the Academy of American Poets

On the right side of this blog is a list of categories with links to websites about writing, arts and culture, and other topics that might be of interest to you.  One example is from the Academy of American Poets.  It is a comprehensive site with essays about poetry and poets and videos of poets reading and discussing their work.

You can find essays on writing and poetry craft and spotlights on major 20th Century writers like Ezra Pound and Allen Ginsberg, and emerging writers like Kevin Young and Suji Kwock Kim. There are videos with poets from the academy's own archives and a selection from the web.  In one video Ada Limón talks about the role of poets in our culture and the benefits they might find on the internet today.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

On Writing: Student Application Personal Statements

Essays About Work and Class That Caught a College’s Eye

from The New York Times, May 21, 2018

Clare Connaughton wrote about shopping at thrift stores.

Of the 1,200 or so undergraduate admission essays that Chris Lanser reads each year at Wesleyan University, maybe 10 are about work.
This is not much of a surprise. Many applicants have never worked. Those with plenty of money may be afraid of calling attention to their good fortune. And writing about social class is difficult, given how mixed up adolescents often are about identity.
Yet it is this very reluctance that makes tackling the topic a risk worth taking at schools where it is hard to stand out from the thousands of other applicants. Financial hardship and triumph, and wants and needs, are the stuff of great literature. Reflecting on them is one excellent way to differentiate yourself in a deeply personal way.
To read the rest of the article click on this.

To read a companion article with students in their own words click on this.

To read four college application personal essays about money by students click on this.

For more tips on writing a college personal statement see Purdue's Online Writing Lab (OWL) and watch this video from the University of California:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Writers on Writing: Writing Your Way to Happiness

from The New York Times, January 19, 2015
Writing Your Way to Happiness

CreditChris Gash
The Well Column
Tara Parker-Pope on living well.
The scientific research on the benefits of so-called expressive writing is surprisingly vast. Studies have shown that writing about oneself and personal experiences can improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory.
Now researchers are studying whether the power of writing — and then rewriting — your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness.
The concept is based on the idea that we all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right. Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.
It may sound like self-help nonsense, but research suggests the effects are real.
In one of the earliest studies on personal story editing, researchers gathered 40 college freshman at Duke University who were struggling academically. Not only were they worried about grades, but they questioned whether they were intellectual equals to other students at their school.
The students were divided into intervention groups and control groups. Students in the intervention group were given information showing that it is common for students to struggle in their freshman year. They watched videos of junior and senior college students who talked about how their own grades had improved as they adjusted to college.
The goal was to prompt these students to edit their own narratives about college. Rather than thinking they weren’t cut out for college, they were encouraged to think that they just needed more time to adjust.
The intervention results, published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, were startling. In the short term, the students who had undergone the story-changing intervention got better grades on a sample test. But the long-term results were the most impressive.
Students who had been prompted to change their personal stories improved their grade-point averages and were less likely to drop out over the next year than the students who received no information. In the control group, which had received no advice about grades, 20 percent of the students had dropped out within a year. But in the intervention group, only 1 student — or just 5 percent — dropped out.
In another study, Stanford researchers focused on African-American students who were struggling to adjust to college. Some of the students were asked to create an essay or video talking about college life to be seen by future students. The study found that the students who took part in the writing or video received better grades in the ensuing months than those in a control group.
Another writing study asked married couples to write about a conflict as a neutral observer. Among 120 couples, those who explored their problems through writing showed greater improvement in marital happiness than those who did not write about their problems.
“These writing interventions can really nudge people from a self-defeating way of thinking into a more optimistic cycle that reinforces itself,” said Timothy D. Wilson, a University of Virginia psychology professor and lead author of the Duke study.
Dr. Wilson, whose book “Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live By,” was released in paperback this month, believes that while writing doesn’t solve every problem, it can definitely help people cope. “Writing forces people to reconstrue whatever is troubling them and find new meaning in it,” he said.
Much of the work on expressive writing has been led by James Pennebaker, a psychology professor at the University of Texas. In one of his experiments, college students were asked to write for 15 minutes a day about an important personal issue or superficial topics. Afterward, the students who wrote about personal issues had fewer illnesses and visits to the student health center.
“The idea here is getting people to come to terms with who they are, where they want to go,” said Dr. Pennebaker. “I think of expressive writing as a life course correction.”
At the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, life coaches ask clients to identify their goals, then to write about why they haven’t achieved those goals.
Once the clients have written their old stories, they are asked to reflect on them and edit the narratives to come up with a new, more honest assessment. While the institute doesn’t have long-term data, the intervention has produced strong anecdotal results.
In one example, a woman named Siri initially wrote in her “old story” that she wanted to improve her fitness, but as the primary breadwinner for her family she had to work long hours and already felt guilty about time spent away from her children.
With prompting, she eventually wrote a new story, based on the same facts but with a more honest assessment of why she doesn’t exercise. “The truth is,” she wrote, “I don’t like to exercise, and I don’t value my health enough. I use work and the kids to excuse my lack of fitness.”
Intrigued by the evidence that supports expressive writing, I decided to try it myself, with the help of Jack Groppel, co-founder of the Human Performance Institute.
Like Siri, I have numerous explanations for why I don’t find time for exercise. But once I started writing down my thoughts, I began to discover that by shifting priorities, I am able to make time for exercise.
“When you get to that confrontation of truth with what matters to you, it creates the greatest opportunity for change,” Dr. Groppel said.
To read the article at The New York Times click on Writing Your Way to Happiness
Related: The Benefits of a Personal Mission Statement
Related: Does Handwriting Matter?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

"Summertime" and "A Change is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke sings "Summertime" by George Gershwin, one of the great
American composers. Cooke recorded it in 1957.


And the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin'

And the cotton is high

Oh, Your daddy's rich
And your mamma's good lookin'
So hush little baby
Don't you cry

One of these mornings
You're going to rise up singing
Then you'll spread your wings
And you'll take to the sky

But until that morning
There's a'nothing can harm you
With your daddy and mammy standing by

And the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin'
And the cotton is high

Your daddy's rich
And your mamma's good lookin'
So hush little baby
Don't you cry

One of America's greatest singers, Sam Cooke's life was cut short when he was shot and killed in Los Angeles. He was 33 at the time. More about Sam Cooke (1931-64) at Songs of Sam Cooke.

Sam Cooke sings "A Change is Gonna Come,"
a Civil Rights anthem he wrote in 1964, the year of his death.

"A Change is Gonna Come"

I was born by the river in a little tent
And just like that river I've been running ever since
It's been a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will

It's been too hard living, but I'm afraid to die
'Cause I don't know what's out there beyond the sky
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will

I go to the movie
And I go down town
somebody keep telling me don't hang around
It's been a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will

Then I go to my brother
And I say brother help me please
But he winds up knockin' me
Back down on my knees

There were times when I thought I couldn't last for long
But now I think I'm able to carry on
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gone come, oh yes it will